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Appendix A. Protocol for In-Depth Interviews with Consumers

Introduction (5 minutes)

Hello, and thank you for participating in this interview today. My name is ____, and I work for a company called ICF. My firm is working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which is an agency of the Federal government whose role is to protect consumers. For this specific project, the CFPB is interested in learning more about consumers’ experiences with _______ [overdraft programs / credit scores and reporting / background screening related to housing or employment / financial decision-making].

During today’s session, which we expect will take about 45 minutes, we’ll be talking about your own experiences with [insert topic]. We hope to use these interviews to get a better understanding of what consumers know about this topic, their experiences, and how people make decisions around that topic.

Before we begin, let’s establish some quick ground rules for the session. First, if there are any questions that I ask that you’d prefer not to answer, that is okay. Second, in addition to me there are a few other people observing this interview, both from ICF and from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They will be listening to what you have to say and taking notes. Does this all make sense, and do you have any questions about it? (Pause for any questions)

Please note the Privacy Notice for this session.

Privacy Notice

The responses you provide to ICF International (ICF) will be used by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) to understand economically vulnerable consumer’s experiences related to financial products and services.

With your consent, the Bureau will capture audio and video recordings of your responses as you participate in the study. The recordings will only be shared within the ICF project team for transcription.

Your feedback will be kept private and will not be linked to a personal identifier. Only information that is aggregated or de-identified will be shared with the Bureau. Additionally, the Bureau may publish de-identified reports based on the results of this study. None of your identifying information will be included in the reports.

This collection of information is authorized by Pub. L. No. 111-203, Title X, Sections 1013 and 1022, codified at 12 U.S.C. §§ 5493 and 5512.

Participation is voluntary, and you may withdraw participation at any time.

We would also like to record this session, but the recording will not be shared with any outside parties and will be used only for research purposes pertaining to this project. Are you comfortable with us recording this discussion? (Get agreement before continuing.)

Module 1: Overdraft Programs

General Understanding of Overdraft Programs

1. Do you have an account with a bank or credit union? How many, and are they with banks or credit unions?

  • Are your accounts checking or savings accounts?
  • Do you have a debit card for any of those accounts? If so, how often do you use your debit card, and what do you use it for?

2. [If participant does not have a bank account] Have you ever had an account with a bank or credit union in the past? Note: If participant does not currently have a bank account, then when asking later questions (e.g., about experiences with overdrafts) clarify that you are asking about their past experience with accounts.

  • If so, why do you no longer have one?

3. Have you ever tried to buy something for which you didn’t have enough money in your account?

  • If so, what happened? Did the purchase go through? Were you charged a fee for that purchase? How much?
  • How did you try to make that purchase? With a debit card? A check?
  • Did you know that was going to happen, or were you surprised? Why? If you were charged a fee, did you know that you would be charged? If the purchase didn’t go through, what happened? Were there any fees or penalties from the merchant?
  • Would you have wanted something different to happen when you tried to make that purchase? If so, what? If purchase went through and participant was charged a fee, probe to see if they wished that the purchase had instead not gone through—and vice versa.

Overdraft Protection

4. Do you currently or did you in the past have overdraft protection on your bank account?

  • [If yes] What do you mean when you say that you have “overdraft protection”? How does that overdraft protection work?

If needed, here is a definition of overdraft: An overdraft occurs when you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a transaction, but the bank pays the transaction anyway. You can overdraw your account through checks, ATM transactions, debit card purchases, automatic bill payments, and electronic or in-person withdrawals. Many banks and credit unions offer overdraft protection programs in which the bank or credit union generally pays the transaction and charges you a fee (in addition to requiring repayment of the overdraft amount). Overdrafts can also be covered through a transfer of funds from a linked account, credit card, or line of credit.

5. When you opened your account, did you know at that point whether or not you had overdraft protection?

  • Did you ask about overdraft protection when you opened your account?
  • Is overdraft protection something that you considered when choosing your account? Did you ask different banks or credit unions about their overdraft protection policies in order to choose between them?

6. Have you ever gotten advice from anyone about overdraft protection? If so, from whom, and what did they tell you?

7. Did you sign up for overdraft protection, or was it given to you automatically?

  • If you signed up for it intentionally, what was the reason?
    • Did you talk to anyone before signing up for it, or look for information anywhere else about what the advantages and disadvantages might be? Probe for conversations with friends or family, discussions with bank employees, or information from other sources.
    • Looking back, are you happy that you signed up for it?
  • If you did not sign up for overdraft protection intentionally, how did you find out that you had it?
    • When you found out you had it, how did you feel about it?
    • Have you tried to remove overdraft protection from your account? Why or why not?

8. If you wanted to end your overdraft protection, do you think you could? If yes, how would you go about doing so?

  • Have you ever considered ending your overdraft protection? If so, why did you decide not to?

9. Have you ever been charged an overdraft fee? If so, how often would you say you are charged a fee?

  • When you overdraft your account, do you usually know that you are doing so—or does it happen by accident?
  • Are you usually expecting an overdraft fee when it is charged, or is it a surprise to you?
  • When you overdraft your account, what kind of purchases is it usually for? Does it tend to be for smaller or larger purchases?
    • Do you feel any differently about overdrafting your account when it is a small purchase vs. a big purchase? Is being able to overdraft more important to you for one of those types of purchases?

10. Did you use any strategies to avoid overdrafts? (e.g., balance alerts, check balance online, wait until day after paycheck to go grocery shopping). Is it difficult to know when you might overdraft?

11. When you have been charged fees, have you ever complained to the bank or credit union? If not, why not?

  • Have you ever asked your bank/credit union to waive a fee? Do you think you could do this, and do you think it would be successful?
  • Do the fees that you are charged impact your finances significantly? Have you ever had trouble paying them back?
  • Have you taken other financial steps to avoid these fees? (e.g. using other types of credit such as a payday loan or credit card, or going without a purchase)

12. Have you ever been charged multiple overdraft fees in a short time period? If so, please describe the situation when that happened.

13. If you were charged overdraft fees at one bank but did not pay them, do you think that might have an impact when you tried to open another account at another bank? Why or why not?

14. Do you think that there are any bank accounts that don’t charge overdraft fees? Have you ever heard of any accounts like that?

15. Have you ever considered closing a bank account because of overdraft fees that you were charged?

  • [If participant currently has an account] If you did close your account, do you think you would open another one? Or would you just go without a bank account in order to avoid overdraft fees?

[If participant no longer has a bank account]

16. Do you like not having a bank account or do you wish you still had one? Why?

  • What other financial products, if any, do you use? Probe to see if participant uses prepaid cards, check cashing facilities, payday loans, or other products.

17. Have you ever tried to apply for a bank account after your previous one was closed? Were you able to open up that account?

  • If not, do you know what the issue was? Was it an issue of how you had used a bank account in the past, such as fees that weren’t paid or too many bounced checks? Were overdrafts a factor?
  • Did the bank provide any guidance on potential alternatives to a bank account? (e.g. second chance, checkless checking, prepaid card)
  • What did you do after you were denied? Did you apply for accounts at other banks? If so, were you successful in opening those accounts?
  • When your earlier bank account was closed, did you make the decision to close it, or did the bank close it?
    • If you closed it, why did you close it?
    • If the bank closed it, what did they tell you about why it was closed? Did they give you an opportunity to do anything to prevent it from being closed?

[All participants]

18. Have you ever heard of “second chance accounts” at banks and credit unions? If so, what do you think they are?

  • Have you ever heard of “Bank On" accounts? If so, what do you think they are?

19. Imagine that you knew that you might sometimes have to make purchases that overdraw your checking account but wanted to avoid being charged fees for doing so. Is there anything you could do?

Conclusion/False Close

20. Is there anything else related to overdrafts or overdraft protection that you would like to share today?

At this point the interviewer will excuse him or herself from the interview in order to ask observers if there are any follow-up questions that should be asked. He or she will then return to the interview, ask any follow-up questions, and conclude the interview.